How to Train Dogs to Stay Off Furniture
As much as we love cuddling up with our dogs, people often ask me how to train dogs to stay off furniture. Teaching pups a specific cue that gives them permission to get on furniture helps ensure that your wet or muddy dog doesn’t ruin your upholstery or bother your guests.
Below, I discuss some ways to help keep dogs off furniture, whether you are there or not. While I focus on “the couch,” the same rules can apply to other furniture, like a bed, a table or a chair.
1. Block access to the furniture when you’re not home.
The first step to keep dogs off furniture is to make sure they don’t have many chances to be reminded of how nice it is on the couch. An easy way to do that when you’re not home is to block access to the couch.
To block access, close the door, so your dog can’t get into the room at all. You also can put up a pet gate, like the MyPet Windsor arch pet gate, in the doorway to that room or keep your dog in a pen or dog crate when you are out.
2. Give your dog another great place to be.
Keep a pet-friendly home. Your dog or cat is a part of the family. If she’s a kitty, she needs her own litter box in a quiet, out-of-the way corner, a scratching post or tree, her own toys, and a nice cozy spot for napping.
Provide your pooch somewhere nice that is not the couch. Your dog probably just wants to be comfortable and near you. An easy solution is to put a nice, comfy dog bed, like the Helix Durable Bolster dog bed, within easy reach of the couch.
To encourage your pup to choose the dog bed instead of the couch, praise him whenever you see him lie down on the dog bed. Then, give him a high-value treat, like a peanut butter-filled KONG Classic.
You also can train your dog to settle on his bed using the training described in “How to Train Your Dog to Settle on the Mat.”
3. Teach your dog a reliable “off” cue.
If your dog does hop on your furniture uninvited, you can teach him a reliable “off” cue. This especially is useful when you have guests over and when small children are on the furniture.
Note: I use the word “off” rather than “down” since most people also use “down” in reference to “lie down.” Also, before you start, make sure you regularly carry dog treats with you or hide them around the house, so you can grab one quickly when you need to.
Step 1. Next time your dog has his paws up on something—anything at all—say, “off,” wait a beat and then toss a treat to the side. Your dog will have to get his paws off of whatever it is to retrieve the treat.
Step 2. Praise your dog, and then toss another treat by his feet. You are teaching him that staying four-paws-on-the-ground is worth it.
Keep Your Gum & Candy Stored Away. Many gums & candies include xylitol, a sugar substitute that’s highly toxic and can be fatal to dogs. Keep all candies and gum far out of reach of your pets at all times. Here’s a list of common household items that are known to contain xylitol.
Step 3. Repeat this until your pup starts getting off of objects as soon as he hears the word “off,” even before you toss the treat.
When you get to that level, your dog understands the behavior. That doesn’t mean you can stop using treats, but it does mean you can take a little more time to find the treat before you toss it on the floor. After a few weeks, reduce the frequency of treats to once every few times, and then simply praise or pet your dog the other times.
When you train “off” this way, the cue works whether he jumps up on a person, has his front-paws on the front door, or is sitting on the couch.
4. Teach your dog a “you have permission to get on the couch now” cue (e.g. “Up!”).
If you never want your dog on the furniture at all, you can skip this step. If you want your pet to come up on the furniture from time to time, teaching this cue will help your dog clearly understand when he is welcome and when he’s not.
Step 1. Grab some treats and walk over to the couch. Pat the couch with your hand while saying “up” (or whatever cue you’d like).
Step 2. As soon as your dog jumps up on the couch, praise him and feed him a treat. Then let him settle in beside you for a little while before telling him to get “off.”
Step 3. Repeat steps one and two a few times, and then take a break.
This is a copycat version of the kind made by Greenies.
Step 4. Repeat this until your dog starts jumping onto the couch as soon as you say “up,” before you even pat the couch.
When you get to that level, your dog understands the behavior. For this cue, you can start skipping the treats pretty fast, because getting on the couch and spending time with you is positive reinforcement itself.
Now that your dog understands both “up” and “off,” set the following rules in your home:
Rule 1: If the dog jumps up on the couch without permission, whoever is nearby should say “off” and encourage the dog to go to his bed instead.
Rule 2: When people want cuddle time, they can invite the dog onto the couch by saying “up.”
Voila! Your dog should now wait for permission to get on the couch and hang out on his own bed at other times. Note: You still might need to block access to the couch while you’re out of the house.
Featured Image: By Jon Lofdahl